Bomb damage in Flaxton Terrace (Leodis)
Bombs over Beeston
Were you, or members of your family, witness to German bombing raids on Beeston during the war?
A Leeds academic, Dr Tom Herron, is trying to find out what really happened in South Leeds during the dark days of the 1940s. Tom lectures in English at Leeds Met University. He is discussing Tony Harrison's poem Shrapnel, published in 2005, with a group of post-graduate students on the MA English: Twentieth-Century Literature course. Many of the students in the class and the poet Tony Harrison come from Leeds.
In the poem, about a German bombing raid on Leeds during World War Two, Tony Harrison remembers sheltering in his cellar as a raid was in progress over Beeston. He says that all the bombs in that raid fell in a nearby park rather than on the houses thereby saving the lives of local residents.
Tom is trying to find out whether this claim is true, or a myth that has grown up around a wartime raid.
"There are two questions: Did any bombs actually land in park? And if so did the bomber work to a 'better, deeper instinct' as the poem says? Apparently there are some indentations in Cross Flatts park, but we would love to hear from local people about any raid."
The conflict finished in 1945 so any eye-witness would have to be around 70 years old to have a direct memory of the events.
The poet Tony Harrison is 71, he grew up in Tempset Road, Beeston and went to Cross Flatts county primary school. If you are too young to have been there yourself maybe your mum or Dad spoke about it. Was this story of bombs landing in the park in Beeston around when you were growing up?
The Leeds digital picture archive, Leodis, has a picture of a ruined, bombed house identified as 34 Flaxton terrace (see picture above), it is thought to be the aftermath of a raid during March 15 1941. Flaxton terrace is only a few hundred yards from the park.
Tom says: "Beeston as an area has a strong identity did this story about the bombs being deliberately dropped in the park circulate among the people in the area? I've found a lack of information in the press of the time, was news of the raids suppressed at the time?
"If bombs did land in park was it an act of heroism by a bomber, or was a simple near-miss given a different motive by people on the ground?
"If some important things did happen that were not officially recorded then maybe there are local people that have a repository of stories that have never been told."
Do you remember the raids, or have heard your family speak about them? Contact the BBC Leeds website.
What you say:
Yes, bombs did fall in Beeston in 1941. My auntie, at that time, lived in 9 Waverley Mount. A bomb dropped in the next street and wiped out some stables and two horses. The horses died in the stables and the damaged houses were flattened and cleared. Some people had to be dug out but nobody was killed. One of the families made homeless was re-housed at Middleton. The street where the bomb hit was Waverley Grove. On the Leodis site a picture from 1965 shows a blank wall next to number that was where the damage occurred. Mr and Mrs Fairclough lived at number 9. Before, during and after the war they were friends of my Auntie, they died before the 1970s. My Auntie died in 1998 aged 97.
I remember my mam and grandparents telling me about the night the bombs dropped.
I have recently carried out family research on the stories I heard as a boy, to prove whether they were true or not. I have got to the point where my uncle (mother's brother) was one of the people injured in Leeds during air raids. He was a fireman when the brigade was called out. The fire engine was in front of the town hall when a bomb went off and blew the engine on to its side. Uncle Clarence was trapped by his arm under the engine which had to be amputated. My problem is I cant find any record of this. He later learnt to use his left arm and became a superb artist.
last updated: 30/09/2009 at 13:50